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Wheaton, Illinois: Site of World's First Radio Telescope

Built in 1937 in Grote Reber's backyard, later disassembled and moved for posterity to Greenbank, West Virginia. The backyard site is now a parking lot, but it does have a historical marker.

250 Karlskoga Ave., Wheaton, IL
Downtown. On the south side of Karlskoga Ave., midway between N. Wheaton Ave. and N. Hale St. Just south of the Memorial Park band shell and a half-block east of city hall.
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Site of World's First Radio Telescope.

Site of World's First Radio Telescope.

According to a plaque at the site of the World's First Radio Telescope, it was home-built by Grote Reber in the side yard of his house in 1937, "to the wonderment of many in town."

[Jon Morgan, 06/18/2018]

Reber radio telescope site.

Site of World's First Radio Telescope

In 1933, Karl Jansky of Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL), while gathering data on terrestrial radio waves, discovered that the center of our galaxy was spewing radio noise. He wanted to build a bigger, better telescope, but BTL management nixed the idea. Grote Reber of Wheaton heard about Jansky's discovery, and in his spare time, on his own dime, built the world's first radio telescope in his back yard. He had to gather data late at night, because during the day car spark plugs polluted the radio spectrum. Some would call him obsessive; I call him "highly determined." Reber's pioneering telescope was later moved to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. Today, the site of his telescope is an AT&T parking lot with a historical marker. Given that BTL used to be part of AT&T, this could be considered either cosmic justice or just plain ironic.

[John Takao Collier, 12/04/2013]

Jansky's 100-ft. wide, spindly contraption in a farm field at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ was the first antenna/telescope to pick up the radio noise from space, but Reber's version is the first parabolic dish "radio telescope." And he gets extra points for doing it in his back yard.

Radio Telescope historical marker.

World's First Radio Telescope Marker

Just north of downtown Wheaton is a memorial to the World's first "substantial" radio telescope. The device, built in 1937, was a 31 foot bowl-shaped telescope constructed by amateur radio operator and pioneer radio astronomer, Grote Reber, in his backyard. The plaque was installed in late 2002.

[Joseph D. Kubal, 07/05/2011]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Billy Graham Center MuseumBilly Graham Center Museum, Wheaton, IL - < 1 mi.
Tolkien's Desk: An Unexpected LocationTolkien's Desk: An Unexpected Location, Wheaton, IL - < 1 mi.
Perry Mastodon ExhibitPerry Mastodon Exhibit, Wheaton, IL - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Large Hot Dog Topped With Fries, Cicero, IL - 17 mi.

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